Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 11:30 am on 22nd March 2022.
The Department of Justice wrote to the Committee on 14 February to advise that it proposed to make an order to make provision for the new domestic abuse offence and related aggravators, which came into operation on 21 February 2022 as part of the Domestic Abuse and Civil Proceedings Act, to be disclosed by the Access NI disclosure process.
The Department's correspondence outlined that Access NI disclosure information held on a person's criminal record, particularly enhanced checks for individuals who are seeking to work with children and adults, elapse after certain periods. Access NI will not disclose old and minor offences from that period, although that does not apply to offences specified in section 113A(6D) of the Police Act 1997. Those more serious offences are always disclosed on the Access NI standard and enhanced certificates.
As the Minister detailed to the House this morning, the draft order will explicitly add the domestic abuse offence as well as convictions for the domestic abuse offence aggravated by the child aggravator to the list of specified offences. All other current convictions for offences that are aggravated by domestic abuse will be included in the list of relevant matters and be disclosable as part of the Access NI application check. Provision is made for the disclosure of non-court disposals for the domestic abuse offence on standard and enhanced applications. Adding the domestic abuse offence and the associated aggravators means that they will always be disclosed on a standard or enhanced Access NI certificate, and they will not be filtered out after 11 years following the conviction or after six years for an adult non-court disposal.
The Committee considered the information from the Department at its meeting on 17 February and agreed that it was content with the proposal for the statutory rule. The rule was subsequently considered on 10 March, when the Committee noted that the Examiner of Statutory Rules had no comment to make by way of technical scrutiny. The Committee agreed to recommend that the statutory rule be approved by the Assembly. On behalf of the Committee, I support the motion.